Tata Group, India’s largest conglomerate, is gearing to build a military aircraft in a boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mission of supporting local defense capabilities and reducing dependence on costly imports.
Closely-held Tata Advanced Systems Ltd. will “showcase its capabilities in high-altitude twin engine aircraft” for military use in a defense expo in Bengaluru this week, a company spokesperson said in an email Tuesday, without sharing further details. The Economic Times reported earlier that the Tata firm had acquired the necessary intellectual property rights from a German-origin platform.
The venture, if successful, will mark the first time an private sector entity has managed to build military-grade aircrafts — an area of high-tech expertise that has traditionally been the exclusive domain of the state-sponsored Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. or foreign defense contractors.It also underscores Modi’s push for ‘Self-Reliant India’ and ‘Make In India’ — his signature programs aimed at boosting local manufacturing and consumption.
Tata’s new aircraft, once inducted, can be used for border surveillance among other military purposes. It will be presented in Aero India 2021, the spokesperson said. The aerospace and defense exhibition that’s organized every alternate year in the South Indian city of Bengaluru, will be held from Feb. 3 to Feb. 5.
While Modi’s initiatives have opened business prospects worth billions of dollars for Indian conglomerates such as the Tata Group, Adani Group, Larsen & Toubro Ltd. and Mahindra & Mahindra Group, the ability to manufacture military aircrafts requires deep pockets and a tenacity to overcome multiple setbacks. Many Indian groups have been attempting to make such aircrafts for decades, with little success.
So far, only Hindustan Aeronautics has managed this feat. It produced the twin engine HF-24 Marut six decades ago — India’s first indigenous fighter-bomber — and more recently, developed the light combat aircraft, Tejas.
“Any new venture in the field of aerospace is welcome, it adds to the eco-system,” said Air Marshal Ragunath Nambiar, former vice chief of the Indian Air Force. He also cautioned that he wasn’t sure if the Indian Air Force needed enough aircrafts “in the near future to justify a production line.”
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